There are lots of things I love about you, Sydney.
I love your dazzling waterfronts, stretching out from the Sydney Harbour that the tourists see, all the way west up the Parramatta River – simply spectacular, even on an overcast day.
I love your cafés, even if you’re no Melbourne.
And I actually love your trains, even if people are always complaining about how these are always running late.
When I thought I might be leaving you for good last year, it was easy to list the things I would miss.
But loving things about Sydney isn’t the same as loving Sydney.
Now that I’m back here with you again, I’ve realised that I … Well, I don’t love you.
Poets pen odes to the places that have seduced them – just look at how people fall in love in and with Paris, how so many have sung of New York. Or how, by the waters of Babylon, Israel’s exiles longed ardently for the Promised Land. Or how Peter Allen’s classic ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ rouses every Aussie heart.
Truly, our connection with a place can often be as intense – if not more so – than a love affair involving two human parties.
I, for my part, love Loja. La Paz I didn’t love enough to stay – but with hindsight, she holds a cherished place in my heart. Perhaps because it’s always felt unrequited, I think I still love Spain. And, although it’s a complicated relationship, at the end of the day I do love Canberra.
But me and Sydney? I don’t feel much – you don’t care much for me, and I’m rather lukewarm about you.
Nineteen months in and I’m fairly settled with work, friends, church, routine of a sort.
But you don’t feel like home.
You feel even less like home because you should and yet constantly some Sydneysider will say something or I will see something that brings me to myself and makes me feel like I’m an exile in a strange land.
Much like the Israelites in Babylon that my pastor was talking about last week.
During their exile they were told to
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
The message was about loving our city and seeking its wellbeing. I’m passionate about the Church being a presence in our immediate community, being a blessing in a real sense, rather than being a group of people who meet regularly in a building to sing and discuss esoterica.
I’m committed to sowing into this community as long as I’m here – I’m just not sure I actually want to be here for long at all.
There’s something that Farrelly says that’s stuck with me:
More importantly, do you really deep down want to leave? Or are you just restless, a tad bored? Can it be worked on, worked out, worked through, or will your ennui just re-sprout in some other, greener field?
These sentiments are something I have wrestled with on and off for the last decade of my life: restlessness, boredom, a desperation for greater meaning and purpose. And so I have travelled and lived lightly.
Yet sure enough the ennui resprouts. I find that I both crave and resist building houses, settling down. Planting gardens and eating what they produce. Marrying and having sons and daughters.
Maybe I’m not ready to be that kind of adult yet. Maybe I haven’t found the right patch for all that yet.
Sydney, I’m going to work on things with us. I’m just not sure we can work it out or work through it. And that – that breaks my heart.
Not that you care, anyway.